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This is a big weekend for Syracuse basketball recruiting. Yeah, we’re still waiting to find out what’s happening on the Taurean Thompson front and trying to round out the roster for the upcoming season. But it’s important to remember, the 2017 recruiting class is absolutely essential. And arguably one of the “must-get” players is currently on campus: Nick Richards.

The the Patrick School (NJ) big man, who hails from NYC, went up to campus yesterday, and getting such an elite talent on campus is huge right now. The Orange need an enormous class in 2017, as there will likely be anywhere from 5-to-8 open scholarships, depending on how things shake out. Richards, a 6-foot-11 center rated by ESPN as the No. 8 player in the class of 2017, has long been on Syracuse’s wish list.

The Orange are in the mix for a lot of talented players, but until one actually commits to Syracuse the ball really can’t get rolling. Quade Green is blowing up as much as anyone in the country right now, earning offers from Duke and Kentucky after his stellar play this spring and into the summer. He’s skyrocketed into the top 25 nationally, and will be tough to land, despite the Orange being one of his earliest, and most diligent suitors.

So that brings us to Richards, a player vastly more important, by comparison, than Taurean Thompson ever was, in the grand scheme. Syracuse will be losing Dajuan Coleman and Tyler Roberson, and chances are pretty strong that Tyler Lydon will be headed to the NBA after next season as well. That leaves a huge hole in the middle, with only young players like Paschal Chukwu and Matt Moyer currently in place to fill in on the front line in 2017-2018.

Let’s not forget that Chukwu, while probably at least a year away from being a serious consideration for the NBA, is a 7-foot-2 outstanding athlete and rim protector, and while it’d be surprising, it wouldn’t be wholly shocking to see him explode into a viable Draft candidate next year, either. And that’s why Richards is so essential. He’s by far the biggest interior prospect, from a national reputation perspective, Syracuse is after. They’ve been on him for awhile, too, and he recently listed the Orange as one of his favorites.

He’s a big-bodied player who hasn’t been playing basketball for very long, which makes his solid footwork and touch around the basket all the more impressive. He’s a shot blocker and a rebounder with a burgeoning offensive game, though at this point it’s primarily limited to dunks and short baby hooks.

Syracuse has its work cut out in the pursuit of Richards, who also lists Indiana, Kentucky, Arizona, and UConn among his leaders. But if the Orange are going to continue to be a national power after Jim Boeheim retires, Richards would be a big part of the puzzle.

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